Interest in cosmetic surgery is booming. Men and women alike are going under the knife to fix sagging jowls, crow’s feet, even cottage cheese thighs. So-called “mommy makeovers,” combo tummy tucks and breast lifts, have never been hotter—and not just among Hollywood’s A-listers.
“Unfortunately, the growing demand has been met with a marked rise in botched procedures thanks to unqualified practitioners,” says Donna Tepper, M.D., plastic surgeon at Henry Ford Health. Finding an experienced, credentialed surgeon is your first, most important step, but it’s not the only one.
Here, Dr. Tepper’s 10-point checklist for potential cosmetic-surgery patients to consider:
- Have realistic expectations. While plastic surgery can enhance your appearance and boost your confidence, it won’t get you a better relationship, a higher-paying job or a more satisfying life. But if your goal is to correct a hooked nose, tighten a loose chin or lift post-nursing breasts, chances are you’ll be satisfied with the results, provided you do your homework first.
- Check surgeons’ qualifications. A growing number of OB/GYNs, internal medicine doctors, even cardiologists are performing cosmetic procedures. If your selected surgeon isn’t board-certified in plastic surgery, or in the procedure you want to have performed, keep searching. Plastic surgeons must complete 50 hours of continuing medical education each year to ensure they’re up to date, and take regular performance examinations, as well as record patient outcomes, to maintain their certification.
- Evaluate the facility. In addition to checking your doctor’s credentials, make sure the procedure is performed in an accredited facility, such as a hospital or medical center. A strip mall, office building or a private home (such as at a cosmetic-surgery house party) is not equipped to adequately address potential complications.
- Consider the timing. Unless you’re having a facial procedure (such as a rhinoplasty, or nose job), consider waiting to have surgery until you’ve completed your family. Having babies—and nursing them!—dramatically changes your body. For the best results, wait until after you’ve finished breastfeeding your last baby to nip, tuck and lift parts that droop and pooch during pregnancy.
- Save for the expense. Elective plastic surgery has a price and it’s not covered by insurance. Unless you purchase a separate policy, health insurance typically doesn’t cover complications that may arise from cosmetic procedures either. You can’t even use flexible spending dollars to fund the operation. But it’s not an area where you can cut corners or search for bargain-basement prices—even if it requires waiting another year or two to save the money you need for surgery.
- Don’t minimize risk. While plastic surgery is an elective procedure, it isn’t without risks. Whether your procedure requires general anesthesia (a combination of drugs and gases that put you to sleep), or local sedation, that step comes with its own risks, which you’ll discuss with your doctor beforehand. Surgical complications are possible, too, including infection, wound separation, and the failure to achieve your desired result.
- Be patient with recovery. Don’t expect to look model-ready after surgery. Be patient with your results. It takes time for swelling and bruising to go away, and it can take weeks or months for the skin to adapt to a new shape. You should also make accommodations for time away from work and family responsibilities, if necessary, too. Talk with your surgeon about post-procedure expectations.
- Consider nonsurgical options. Although noninvasive procedures also carry some risks, you may want to consider a temporary fix before opting for a permanent solution. However, temporary options (the classic example is fillers) can be more expensive in the long run than one trip to the operating room.
- Ask about “stacked” procedures. In some cases plastic surgeons can perform a few different procedures during the same operating room visit. A “mommy makeover,” combining a tummy tuck, breast lift, and liposuction, is the classic example. The caveat: The more trouble spots you tackle in one shot, the greater the downtime, meaning time away from work and family. And extended operating times can cause more blood loss and a greater risk of infection.
- Think ahead. Our bodies are constantly changing, so it’s reasonable to assume that you may want additional procedures five or 10 years down the road. That said, you don’t want to get caught in a cycle of trying to look “perfect.”
“Cosmetic surgery is something you do for yourself—not for a spouse, partner or parent,” says Tepper. “Your body is forever. Treat it preciously.”
More important than almost any other factor is your comfort level with your selected surgeon. Cosmetic surgery is an art not a science and it requires that patient and doctor work together to achieve the desired outcome.
Learn more about the Henry Ford Center for Cosmetic Surgery or call 1-844-432-6763 to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Donna Tepper is a senior staff plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Henry Ford Health, who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn, Grosse Pointe Farms and Novi.